Dream Team Brings More Shame than Glory to Dallas High School
DALLAS (AP) _ Carter High School had a dream football team last fall, but questions about academic eligibility and the arrest of several players for robbery have brought more shame than glory to the school.
The talented Cowboys were on their way to the state championship last fall when they were initially disqualified three weeks before the playoffs. Star senior running back Gary Edwards had allegedly failed algebra.
State education officials and the University Interscholastic League accused Carter Principal C.C. Russeau of changing Edwards’ grade to passing, a charge that Russeau and the Dallas school superintendent repeatedly denied.
With a temporary court order, the Cowboys went on to win the championship, and the matter went to court.
Then a new bombshell dropped in June: Edwards and another All-American Cowboy teammate, Derric Evans, were charged in several armed robberies.
Next, three other teammates were among five more Carter students charged in the robberies of small businesses and restaurants.
A state district judge ruled last Tuesday in favor of Edwards and the Dallas Independent School District in the grade dispute, meaning the high school keeps the football title.
But the criminal charges remain. Edwards and Evans have pleaded guilty and await sentencing. Cases are pending against the other players, who include members of the basketball and junior varsity football teams.
Now disbelieving parents, students and teammates are struggling to figure out why athletes with such promise turned to crime. And some observers say the students were never prepared to handle the attention created by their success in sports.
The 1,700-student school sits in a middle-class neighborhood. The Dallas Morning News reported Sunday that friends and other students said the arrested players robbed to make up for gambling losses and because of a hunger for status and money.
The Carter football players slipped from athletics into friendly dice games and then into gambling for easy money, students and adults told the Morning News in a copyright story.
When the athletes learned that playing dice was also an easy way to lose money, some turned to armed robbery, the students said.
Keith Campbell, one of the alleged robbery ringleaders, said Friday that gambling ″probably″ was the motive for the first holdups. ″Then,″ he said, ″it went on for kicks.″
Recouping losses ″wasn’t a motivation for me, but it was for others,″ another player said through his attorney. ″Some of us just wanted money for partying and buying things.″
Gambling was so common among athletes at Carter that some coaches tolerated it and the Student Council, fearing violence, condemned it, the newspaper said.
Patrick ″P.K.″ Williams and Carlos Allen, who on Friday pleaded guilty with Campbell to the group’s first holdup, said through their attorneys that they robbed to win acceptance by their friends.
″He wanted to be held in that high esteem and he had to be as tough as they were,″ attorney Ted Calisi said of his client, Allen. ″He did that to stay with the crowd.″
Derric Evans and Gary Edwards have publicly apolgized for their deeds.
″When I put myself in the position of those I robbed, looking at a weapon, I can imagine how terrified they felt,″ Evans said at a news conference.
Edwards directed part of his statement to his mother and father. ″You don’t deserve the disappointment, the embarrasment and the shame that I’ve brought on you. I don’t expect you to stand behind me for what I’ve done, but please find it in your heart to forgive me,″ he said.
Kimberly Vaughn, Student Council president, said she hopes students can put the dark clouds behind them this school year.
″If everybody would just let it die, it would make things a lot easier. We were and still are the brunt of a lot of jokes,″ she said.
Carter parent Milton Watkin said the crimes are ″very unfortunate,″ but don’t merit the ″incessant barage of media″ attention, which he called ″sensationalism.″
Coach Freddie James was vacationing in California last week and could not be reached by The Associated Press. Russeau did not return phone calls to the AP.
Linebacker Jessie Armstead said James was tough on academics and discipline as well as football and couldn’t be blamed for the misbehavior of his players.
Edwards’ attorney, Royce West, said he thinks the 17-year-old got involved in the robberies because of pressure over the grade dispute.
″When this controversy started, Gary should have received some counseling,″ West said.
He said Edwards is working at a McDonald’s restaurant, ″getting his life back together.″ Because of the criminal charges, Edwards lost financial aid offered by the University of Houston.
Dallas sports psychologist Tom McGaffey said the entire team could have used counseling.
″Prominence gives a feeling of power. And if it happens suddenly and without the development of discipline and responsibility ... they’re in for trouble,″ McGaffey said.
″We forget the fact that a 17-year-old or 18-year-old is still a kid in our culture,″ he said.